Off The Bottle


The waitress approached me and said, “sir- everyone is staring at you.” She had a look of concern on her face and for a few seconds I had no idea what she was talking about. She then looked down at my chin and it was at that moment that I realized I was sucking on a bottle. I took the bottle out from my mouth, thanked the waitress for her concern and then looked around the restaurant at all the eyes that were focused directly on me. The eyes were of all different sizes, some round others more triangular. They all seemed to be saying “how could a grown man suck on a bottle like that in a public place? You should be ashamed.” I understood their condemnation. It must of been unnerving for their eyes to see me, a grown man, sucking on a bottle. I nodded my head in acknowledgment of their contempt and then I stared at the empty beer bottle sitting on my table.



Sucking on bottles has become a real problem in my life. Last week I was almost fired from my job as a bartender because I was sucking on a wine bottle while working behind a busy bar. I suck on bottles unconciously and I am usually the last person to find out tha there is a bottle in my mouth. Until the waitress pointed out to me that I was sucking on an empty beer bottle I was in a no man’s land of empty, spaced out thought. I was like an infant suckling on his mother’s nipple- blissed out, content and without a worry in the world.

When I was a year old I refused to give up my bottle. At an age where most of my peers were moving on from the bottle I still wanted to keep mine in my mouth. Whenever it was not there, I would let out a rattling cry disturbing enough to worry the neighbors. My parents kept the bottle in my mouth well beyond my sixth birthday simply because they could not find a better solution for my developmental flaw. They assumed incorrectly that eventually I would outgrow my bottle fixation in the same way that  outgrew my obsession with pulling my pants down in public.

I have seen various specialists and therapists for what came to be called my “regressive suckling attachment fixation.” In seventh grade I worked with a particular specialist who had my parents tape my mouth shut for three hours after dinner- every night for one month. If I took the tape off more than three times in one month I would not be given the reward that I was promised- a puppy. For three hours a night I would watch television or read with my mouth taped shut because my parents deeply believed that the specialist’s theory could solve my bottle fixation. His theory was that by spending three hours every night without a bottle in my mouth the attachment fixation would be broken. The bottle and I would get bored of each other and grow apart. The first few days after the end of the month the specialist’s theory worked. I was no longer interested in keeping a bottle in my mouth all the time. I remember one night watching television with my parents without the bottle in my mouth and my father said “thank goodness that shrink was right- my son is not going to be a cock sucker.” I believe it was the next day at lunch that I found an empty coke bottle and began sucking on it.

I am now almost forty years of age and I still have a bottle in my mouth most of the time. When I read, nap, go for a walk, watch television and meditate I enjoy a bottle in my mouth. My wife, who is agitated by my fixation, has tried to diffuse what she calls “my self-demeaning-negative-obsession” by forbidding me to suck on a bottle when I am in her presence. I try and respect her wishes but it is not easy. Often times when we are watching a movie or out to dinner my anxiety will act up and I will need to excuse myself and go into the bathroom and suck on a bottle for a few awhile.



The waitress brought me my check and I paid with cash. She gave me a sympathetic smile that seemed to be reserved for those whom she pitied. I put on my jacket and looked once more around the restaurant. A few eyes still suspiciously fixated upon me. One older lady seemed to be deeply offended by what I had done and was indignantly shaking her head in disapproval of me. I felt the sting of paranoia as I wondered if it was safe for me to leave the restaurant alone. I stood up, took a deep breath and without caring if anyone saw what I was doing- I took the empty beer bottle off the table and stuck it under my coat. As I cautiously walked out the front door of the restaurant I could swear that I heard an older, raspy voice yell, “ain’t it time that your mama showed you how to get off the bottle!”


Magical Thinking

I grew up in a large home where everything was nothing like the real world. There was not a spot on the white rugs nor do I ever remember seeing a bug in the house. When I came home from school my room was cleaned, the bathroom scrubbed and everything in the house seemed to be in its right place. Everything was white except the art on the walls and outside the windows were beautiful oak trees, japanese gardens, a large pool and acres of landscaped grounds. It was a kind of veritable paradise that I grew up in, but as a child I was never able to see it for what it was. Instead I saw ghosts when I looked out the windows. I was afraid to walk down the long dark hallways at night and during the days I carried around a bundle of anxiety because I knew that I would get into trouble if I got a stain on the carpet or knocked anything out from its rightful place. My house was a kind of childhood prison- a prison that forced me to develop magical thinking in order to survive.

Growing up I do not remember my father being a happy man. He was always working and when home he was exhausted by the amount of time he had to spend at work. I remember him always being angry at someone and the someone was usually me. My father could not understand why his son would have deep conversations with his stuffed animals, spend hours in his room pretending to be a rock star while playing air guitar with a tennis racquet or run naked around the yard trying to catch the sun in the palm of my hands. I constructed forts in my room (which I refused to come out from), built a cockpit in my bathroom and pretended that the house was a ship and I was its pilot. I gave myself blow jobs using a hair dryer. When I was forced outside I would often avoid playing with other kids and spend hours pretending that I was flying around on a magic carpet through the landscaped back yard. As the years passed- my father became more concerned about the make-believe world that I seemed to be immersed in. He took me from one psychologist to another until a heavy-set therapist with a sculpted smile on his face told my father what he needed to hear. “It is a form of harmless denial, otherwise known as magical thinking,” the therapist told my father. “Your son is using magical thinking to deal with the stressors of childhood,” he said. My father was concerned that this behavior would follow me into adulthood. “If the defense mechanism survives beyond childhood it could become a serious problem, but I think your  son will out grow his magical thinking.” My dad took a relived deep breath but I think he knew then that something was seriously wrong.

My wife tells me that it is wrong that I spend so much time in the “make believe.” I often defend my magical thinking by telling her that there is no difference between the dream world and the real world. We are all playing a part and most of us just decide to play a similar part that everyone else plays. She is disturbed that I still often like to dress up in my Micheal Jackson and walk around downtown; that I like to spend my days pretending that I am someone else. She is not as concerned when I build forts in the back yard and pretend that I am camping out in the Himalayan mountains but it worries her that I still use my hair dryer for sexual gratification. “You are a grown man who acts like a seven years old child,” I often hear. She tells me that I am “escaping from my real world problems….. that I am not ready to accept the responsibilities of being an adult.” Maybe she is right, but all I can say in my defense is that I have been enjoying the fantastical pleasures of magical thinking since I was a child and it feels all right to me. My wife just shakes her head in frustration and walks away.